Human Impact on the Environment

Humanities & Social Sciences
Geography and the Environment
Course Code
GEOG 1130
Semester Length
15 Weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Course Designation
Certificate in Global Competency
Industry Designation
Typically Offered


Course Description
This course examines global environmental change through the lens of geography and social science from historical and current perspectives. Issues such as sustainable development, population growth, resource consumption and an increasing ecological footprint are critically reviewed, along with changes in ideology, social/economic organization and technology. The course introduces different ways of thinking in natural and social science in relation to issues such as climate change, biodiversity, food, energy, deforestation, pollution (of air, land and water), water resources, oceans, fisheries and urban environmental management. Not only are the root causes of human impacts on natural systems critically examined but also a range of solutions at global, national and local scales.
Course Content

1)     Introduction to the Course

  1. Natural and human-induced change
  2. Historical perspectives of human impacts on the environment through the lens of geography and social science
  3. Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals
  4. Valuing Natural Resources, Natural Capital
  5. Terms - carrying capacity, externalities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge

2)     Natural Systems

  1. Spheres: Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Lithosphere, Hydrosphere, Biosphere
  2. Introduction to Nutrient cycles and Food webs
  3. Biomes, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, succession, natural disturbances, habitats

3)     Population Growth and Consumption

  1. Growth of the human population through time
  2. Demographic variables: birth and death rates, fertility rates, density, population distribution, age-sex pyramids
  3. Demographic Transition Theory
  4. Political, social and economic factors
  5. Ecological footprint - resource consumption patterns

4)     Biodiversity

  1. Types of biodiversity - genetic, species, ecosystem
  2. Natural and human induced factors of biodiversity loss
  3. Species at Risk - classification systems
  4. Fragmentation, connectivity, landscape ecology, restoration
  5. Protected areas

5)     Global Climate Change

  1. Natural and human factors of climate change
  2. Greenhouse Effect
  3. Effects of climate change on natural and human systems (temperature, sea level rise, precipitation changes, etc.)
  4. Global, national and local responses to climate change - UN, IPCC, etc.
  5. Management policies and economic tools
  6. Adaptation strategies and examples

6)     Impacts on Oceans, Fisheries and Coastal Ecosystems

  1. Productivity in marine and coastal ecosystems
  2. Human impacts on oceans and coastal ecosystems
  3. Overharvesting of fisheries and consequences on societies
  4. Changing social behaviour

7)     Impacts on Freshwater Ecosystems

  1. Productivity in lakes and watercourses
  2. Watersheds
  3. Riparian zones
  4. Protecting salmon
  5. Human impacts on freshwater ecosystems - pollution, land use changes, etc.
  6. Restoration and enhancement efforts

8)     Impacts on Forest Ecosystems

  1. Causes and rates of deforestation
  2. Effects of deforestation on natural systems and social systems
  3. Global and local examples and case studies

9)     Impacts of Urbanization

  1. Impacts of urban development on natural systems - terrestrial, aquatic, air, noise
  2. Liquid and solid waste management
  3. Transportation
  4. Urban sprawl

10)   Impacts of Energy and Mining

  1. Patterns of global energy use - fossil fuels, hydroelectric, nuclear, biofuels, solar and wind
  2. Impacts of energy use and mining on natural systems
  3. Strategies to reduce energy consumption
  4. Renewables

11)   Agro-ecosystems and impacts of Agriculture

  1. Soils and soil erosion
  2. Types of agriculture and impacts on natural systems
  3. Green revolution and consequences
  4. Sustainable agriculture challenges


Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:  lectures, small group discussions, visual presentations – powerpoint slides and videos, individual and team projects, field trip assignments and practical in-class exercises.

Means of Assessment

Assessment will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

In-class exercises  10%
Field assignments      15%
Exams  50%
Term Project  20%
Participation   5%
Total 100%
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, the successful student will be able to:

  1. Analyze human impacts on various aspects of the natural world (e.g., population growth and resource consumption, sustainable development, climate change, water resources, deforestation, water pollution, oceans, overfishing, biodiversity and species at risk, urbanization, transportation, energy use, agriculture, etc.).
  2. Describe some of the important natural systems that make up the larger world system.
  3. Describe and explain both the historical aspects of human intervention and the recent acceleration of rates of environmental change including ideological, social, economic and technological characteristics.
  4. Describe and explain approaches and solutions to address environmental issues on a global, regional and local level.
  5. Demonstrate understanding of the relationship between environmental philosophies and attitudes on the one hand and actions on the other, including theories and practices of sustainability and the role of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students:

Texts will be updated periodically. Typical examples are:

Deardon, Philip, Bruce Mitchell, and Erin O'Connell (2020). Environmental Change & Challenge: A Canadian Perspective. Sixth Edition. Oxford University Press. Ontario, Canada.

Middleton, Nick. (2018).  The Global Casino - An Introduction to Environmental Issues. Sixth Edition. Routledge Publishers.



No prerequisite courses.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for GEOG 1130
Camosun College (CAMO) CAMO GEOG 100 (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU GEOG 101 (3)
Coquitlam College (COQU) COQU GEOG 203 (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU GEOG 1XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG GEOG 1155 (3)
Okanagan College (OC) OC GEOG 1XX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU REM 100 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU GEOG 1100 (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU GENV 1XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO GEOG 213 (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV GEOG 211 (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV GEOG 111 (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC GEOG 101A (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU GEOG 1st (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023